Now that I’ve encountered 5 confirmed forgeries and 2 suspected ones of the same linocut, more than I’ve seen of any other print outside of the Vollard Suite, I thought you might want to know about it. The print in question is “Pique, Rouge et Jaune” (“Lance, Red and Yellow”, Bloch 908). I came across the two that are merely suspect years ago, before I knew exactly what to look for. But one of them was in the shop of a dealer convicted of (unwittingly) selling forgeries, and its price was too low. The other was such a bad impression like I’ve never seen in a real linocut, with large swaths of the image incompletely covered with ink. (A similarly poor impression is currently at auction at the time of this writing and is clearly forged.)
There is a silver lining–or two: First, none of these was in the hands of a reputable auction or private dealer. (The first poor impression referenced above was in a gallery with which I have had no personal experience and can’t fully judge its reputation.) Second, the distinction between the forgeries and the real thing is satisfyingly trivial, if you just know what to look for. But since you, dear reader, might not, I thought I’d not only alert you to the prevalence of these forgeries, but also show you how to identify them for yourself. Ordinarily, I don’t publish such tips, for fear that they’ll fall into the wrong hands, but in this case, the discrepancies can’t be corrected for, because they reflect an apparently inherent limitation in the resolution of the reproductive process. Also, I’ll reveal just enough so that you can positively identify the forgeries from photographs alone, without discussing several other types of discrepancies, some of which would be more apparent upon direct inspection. You would need to compare a print in question either to the real thing or, barring that, to a good photo. Even the smallish photo in Baer is good enough for this purpose, and Kramer will do but is not great. Just compare the prints, or photos thereof, side-by-side, focusing on the details of each, and see if there are variances between the two. You will find numerous fine distinctions if one is a forgery, but here’s just one example of what I mean (first, side-by-side close-ups for orientation, then further magnified close-ups for detailed analysis):
Note the “O”-shaped structure at the tip of the lance–it’s fluffy on top in the actual print but smooth in the forgery. The “O” is also much more uniform in width than in the original. There are additional discrepancies just in these close-ups, let alone the remainder of the prints, which should be obvious once you start looking.
Another caveat: just because a print you’re examining doesn’t resemble the above forgery doesn’t mean it’s real. There are at least two different forgeries. Theoretically, there could be more than two, but I have seen (and photographically archived) two forgeries which differ from each other, as well as from the original, in their details. Logically, a print you’re examining must resemble the original in detail if it is real itself.
There are certainly other forged linocuts on the market. The source of the first forged Pique I encountered had consigned a number of lesser linos to a Parisian auction, which succeeded in selling most of them. I’ve however seen only forged “one offs” of other linos. My experience could certainly be skewed. Nonetheless, particular caution is warranted when shopping for this bright red-and-yellow linocut masterpiece. (See http://ledorfineart.com/B908_La_Pique.html for a discussion of the artwork itself.)